Art that I feel strongest about usually relates to the human condition. If the art isn't making any statement, that's not an art I want to be involved with." So says Daniel Buford, associate pastor at the Allen Temple Baptist Church of Oakland, California, and wood sculptor.

Each year Buford hews a new sculpture for the African-American celebration of Kwaanza. One work, This Way Atlanta: A Fertility Signpost, has received an especially enthusiastic response. It combines a raw tribal image with one of a woman whose belly comprises dozens of smaller, agonized faces. Buford wanted it to call attention to the 1981 murders of Atlanta children in black communities, made controversial because of the lethargic response of local police.

His Praetorian Crucifix stretches a bound, muscular figure with severed and kneecapped limbs (a common form of torture in South Africa) so as to make the statement that the Roman Praetorian Guard—whose task it was to crucify Jesus Christ—sets the precedent for police in South Africa's capital, Pretoria. "This is the image of a figure in a lot of tension, who isn't just surrendering to inhumane police; it shows a struggle, a tenuous existence. I think of how the funerals in South Africa became political rallies," Buford says.


"I have a call," Buford states in a soft, firm voice. "I preach. Carving is a form of sermon writing for me. The wood tells me what it is, and once that happens, I try to carve nonstop.

"Each time I carve I push myself to carve something unlike the previous piece," says the self-taught sculptor in describing his process. "If a piece of wood looks like something to me, I speak up for that piece of wood, take it home, and work on it. I remember that that's what God has ...

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